Tag Archives: Eurofighter

Typhoon’s super sci-fi helmet: a (supposedly) unnecessary extra feature on the F-22

When I first saw this picture (taken by contributor Nicola Ruffino), I immediately thought that the Eurofighter Typhoon’s Helmet Mounted Symbology System (HMSS), is not only quite advanced, if compared to the the American JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System), but it is also so ugly and bumpy that let the backseater look like a sort of Hellboy (a comic book superhero).


Even if they implement the same basic features, compared to the American JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System) (that was developed earlier and became operational beginning in the late ’90s), the Typhoon’s HMSS features lower latency, higher definition, improved symbology and night vision.

Both the JHMCS and the HMSS provide the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery. Information imagery (including aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming etc) are projected on the visor (the HEA – Helmet Equipment Assembly – for the Typhoon) , enabling the pilot to look out in any direction with all the required data always in his field of vision.

Noteworthy, although it is integrated in U.S. F-15C/D, F-16  Block 40 and 50 and F-18C/D/E/F, the F-22 Raptor doesn’t need a JHMCS. There are various reasons why the most advanced (and much troubled) air superiority fighter lacks it and the HOBS (High Off-Boresight) weapons: confidence that capability was not needed since no opponents would get close enough to be engaged with an AIM-9X in a cone more than 80 degrees to either side of the nose of the aircraft; limited head space below the canopy; the use of missiles carried inside ventral bays whose sensor can’t provide aiming to the system until they are ejected. And also various integration problems that brought the Air Force to cancel funding.

Did the F-22 need HOBS? Sure, as it would have improved its lethality even further. Indeed, although simulated 1 F-22 vs 3 JHMCS F-16Cs engagements proved that the Raptor can master even challenging scenarios such an extra feature would have been a useful addition when facing large formations of Gen. 5 fighters like the Chinese J-20.

In fact as I’ve already written on this blog, “quantity” rather than “quality” should worry U.S. fighter planes in the future:

“the real problem for the US with the J-20 is not with the aircraft’s performances, equipment and capabilities (even if the US legacy fighters were designed 20 years earlier than current Chinese or Russian fighters of the same “class”); the problem is that China will probably build thousands of them.”

Left image: U.S. Air Force

By the way, the multi-role F-35 will get a HMDS (Helmet Mounted Display System): all of the plane’s sensors along with a set of cameras mounted on the jet’s outer surfaces feed the system providing the pilot with a X-ray vision-like imagery: he can see in all directions, and through any surface, with all the information needed to fly the plane and to cue weapons projected onto the visor.

Although the JHMCS is quite common all around the world, the Typhoon’s HMSS is obviously more rare. A good opportunity to see this helmet in action in the U.S. could come in the next years, following the German Air Force plan to base 24 Eurofighter Typhoons at Holloman Air Force Base, at the German Air Force Flying Training Center established in 1958. The Typhoons will be used to train German pilots on the type, as done with the Tornados, that the GAF expects to keep in New Mexico until 2019.

Image: Eurofighter

Have you ever seen a Tornado-like spinning vortex on a Typhoon? Just phase transition thermodynamics

I’m pretty sure many of this weblog’s readers have already seen this phenomenon generated at the air intake of an F-16. There is also a quite famous image of a C-17 engine, generating this tornado-like spinning vortex. However, the following picture is the first I’ve seen so far showing the vortex generated by an Italian Eurofighter Typhoon (F-2000A according to the Mission Design Series).

The picture was taken in May 2011, by Nicola Ruffino and shows a Typhoon of the 36° Stormo, based at Gioia del Colle, generating a vortex on the apron before taxiing for night sortie.

The principle is quite simple: the air is sucked into the intake generating a depression. As the pressure lowers, the air cools and the water vapor contained in it condesates and becomes visible. The process is the same I’ve explained when I discussed sonic booms and condensation clouds) and it is frequent in high humidity or wet weather conditions.

Noteworthy, if temperature is particularly low the water vapor contained in the air changes directly to ice (without first becoming a liquid). Known as “deposition”, this phase transition can cause some problem to the aircraft, in the form of engine Ice FOD (Foreign Object Damage) and intake ice build-up.

Conformal Fuel Tanks, Storm Shadows, Meteor and IRIS-T missiles: the (really cool) multirole Typhoon offered to the UAE Air Force

I don’t really know if this version of the Eurofighter Typhoon will ever become a reality. However, chances seems to be increased after Eurofighter received a quite surprising RFP (Request For Proposal) by the UAE Air Force and especially since Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Deputy of the country’s armed forces, said to the national news agency WAM that the Rafale offer is “uncompetitive and unworkable.”

Obviously, what happened in the days of the Dubai Air Show 2011, does not easily imply that 60 Typhoon 2020s (that’s the name of the multi-role upgrade) will equip the UAE Air Force which has been under negotiation with Dassault for three years. Nevertheless, the last chapter of the fierce struggle between the two Indian MMRCA contenders shows that the fighter deal in the UAE is far from being closed in spite of the brilliant results  achieved during Operation Unified Protector by the “omnirole” Rafale that in July were moved from Solenzara, in Corsica, to Sigonella, in Sicily, to operate closer to the Libyan coast (and closer to the UAE’s F-16 Block 60 and Mirage 2000s also deployed there…..).

The one offered to the UAE will probably be a multi-role combat plane that will include all the modification foreseen in the Typhoon 2020 upgrade for India.

Anyway, at least for the moment, and based on the pictorial rendering of the next generation Typhoon, I can’t but notice that with CFT (Conformal Fuel Tanks), two Storm Shadow cruise missiles, four Meteor BVR and two IRIS-T or ASRAAM air-to-air missiles, thrust vectoring and a desert camouflage, the Typhoon would not only be a lethal weapon in both the air-to-air and air-to-surface scenarios, but it would be also extremely cool.

Not bad in times of stealth-shaped manned and unmanned planes.

Sion airshow: warbirds, aerobatic display teams and the usual MMRCA contenders

The Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale combat planes haven’t missed a chance to display their capabilities during the last year. Aero India 2011, Le Bourget, Royal International Air Tattoo, Operation Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector are only some of the public events or operations that saw the two fighter planes virtually dogfighting in a marketing campaign marked by a series of breathtaking air displays and many interesting press releases and war stories.

In fact, as almost everybody know by now, the French Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon were shortlisted for the big MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) tender worth about $10 billion USD (“the biggest fighter aircraft deal since the early 1990s” for +126 planes) whose winner should be announced next month. However, they hope to get orders also in Brazil, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bulgaria and Greece, countries where they face the fierce competition of other advanced “hardware” as the Boeing F-18E Super Hornet, the JAS-39 Gripen, and F-16 Block 60.

There are also export chances in Libya, where a deal for 14 Rafales was almost closed in 2008 with Gaddafi and there will be the need to re-equip the Free Libya Air Force in the future; and in Switzerland, whose Schweizer Luftwaffe is in the need to replace its old-fashioned F-5 Tiger planes.

Therefore, the Breitling Sion airshow 2011 (Sept. 15-17), this year’s largest Swiss airshow, provided another chance for a “show of force” of the two European fighter planes in front of potential customers.

Anyway, along with the Rafale Solo display team and the GAF Typhoon, the Sion airshow was attended by many other interesting warbirds as the following pictures, taken by Alessandro Fucito, show.

BTW if you want to know something more about the condensation clouds surrounding some aircraft during some hi-speed maneuvers, read Sonic booms and condensation clouds (explained).

Eurofighter Typhoon 9-ship formation to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the 4° Stormo at Grosseto airbase

On Sept. 16, 2011, the 4° Stormo, one of the most famous and glorious units of the Italian Air Force, celebrated its 80th anniversary with a reunion of personnel who has served with the Wing since it was established in 1931.

The event’s highlight was a Typhoon 9-ship formation (6 single seaters and 3 two seaters, not the largest Eurofighter formation ever) of the 9° Gruppo and 20° OCU (Operational Conversion Unit), that performed a series of flypasts before splitting into two sections (5+4) for landing.

A static display which included two special colored F-104s, two Eurofighters [one of which sported the “80 anni” text of both DASSs (Defensive Aids Sub Systems)] and dummy (blue labeled) AIM-9L, AIM-120B and IRIS-T missiles, was arranged too in the apron used by the 20° Gruppo when it flew the F-104 Starfighter.

During the day, the official book of the 80th anniversary titled “Al lupo, al lupo” was presented. I’m one of the authors of the new book (Hardcover, 224 pages, Italian – English text, ISBN 978-88-96723-01-2) an extremely detailed account of the recent and past history of the 4° Stormo. The book is mainly focused on the most recent years of the 80-year long history of the unit: as Col. Michele Morelli, commander of the Stormo, explained during his presentation’s introductiory speech, on the last year alone, the “Quarto” (Italian for “Fourth”) has hosted the Winter Hide 2011 exercise, has taken part in the most eastern operations of Italian tacair planes by deploying two F-2000s to Bangalore for Aero India 2011 air show, flew several sorties over Libya in support of Operation Unified Protector, and finally deployed to Iceland, for Exercise Northern Viking, where the squadron will provide air policing missions.

I’ve written the chapters about the 4° Stormo from 1990 to Dec. 31, 2010 (in other words, the F-104 ASA period and phase-out and the F-2000 history, from the delivery to the beginning of 2011); the 20° Gruppo with the TF-104; the 604^ Squadriglia Collegamenti involvement in Afghanistan to support the ISAF mission; and the Ferrari – Typhoon race.